Posts Tagged 'bribery'

Shituation 3: Red and blue by night

Believe it or not, roadblocks are not fun. Which is a shame, because they’re a pretty regular feature of life in Moresby. Most are set up by the local equivalent of New South Wales’ RTA. They look at your safety sticker and wave you through. Even if your tyres are bald, your exhaust is belching and your rear windscreen has been replaced by a sheet of black plastic, you will most likely be waved through – provided you gave the right person the extra gratuity fee to get the safety sticker.

Every now and then however you encounter the cops. Most of the time they just check licences and don’t pay too much attention, especially by day. By night, it’s a tad different – especially later at night, as was the case in this scenario, and especially when the driver (me) has by some dumb lapse of judgement left his licence at home. Stupid, stupid, STUPID.

You see, there are some quaint customs from the big place just to the south that are not so trendy up here. For example, in the big place down south, if you cannot produce your licence when asked to by a cop, they will typically give you the option of going to the local cop shop within a day or two to show it. Seems reasonable and maybe even efficient – gets traffic moving again, gets the cop onto the next car. Seemingly not. In Moresby, there are three options only – you have your licence, you pay a sum (not strictly speaking a ‘fine’ as we discovered), or you have a nice kip in the slammer and hope for the best.

Once we had established that producing the licence later was not an option, and insisted strongly that a night in the cell was equally as repugnant, we were left with the second option only – the ‘sum’. Apparently I was guilty of two evils – driving without a licence, and being unable to produce a licence when asked to by a law enforcement agent. This sounded fine to a point. The fee seemed hefty enough but not too out of line to my inexperienced mind – being one hundred clams per offence. The trickiness of the situation was twofold. First, the officer peering through our window was quite resolute in his insistence that any kind of documentation was not only unnecessary but thoroughly unconventional. It was a simple matter of paying one’s dues, accepting that one had done wrong, and trusting that the two hundred kina would be safely deposited in the relevant government account and not at the closest roadside beer shack. But that wouldn’t happen, surely.

Which brings us to the second issue – we had no cash. We also do not have the gift of pulling money from thin air, as much as the worthy officer seemed to think we might. After some time the officer became more accommodating – literally at first, as he repeated the offer of a free night in the Hohola cells, then figuratively as he said that possibly we could get a ride in a police vehicle to the closest ATM. Being slightly unwilling to leave our car we asked if it were possible to pay the fine at a police station or court house the following day, and maybe even get a receipt.

This concerned the officer, but of course he was worried on our behalf. In asking such a silly question I had betrayed by ignorance yet again. The officer explained, seemingly a little uncomfortably (but who am I to judge? I was myself also a tad uncomfortable) that payment at a court house or police station at a later date would be more expensive. Exactly twice the amount in fact. I ask you all not to leap to any unfair conclusions regarding the integrity of the officer at this stage. Red tape, paperwork and so on are major inhibitors to the efficiency of a modern economy after all, and seeing as PNG has plenty of things it needs to prioritise I would suggest that a situation like mine would merely be a strain on the progress of the nation. Bloody bureaucracy never helped anyone get anything done after all, here or anywhere else.

So we had a stalemate. We babbled a bit about calling our security escorts, we said we were sorry, we felt as helpless as we did angry. Eventually we hit upon a proposal that worked – call over the boss to sort something out.

The boss came. The boss certainly looked like the boss – protruding gut, fine moustache, nice blue beret and a button-up shirt. And, a machine gun.

The boss, however, was also our boon (yes! he looked a bit like a Papua New Guinean Boonie too) – he took one look at our humble car and decided he wasn’t interested. We offered again to report to a police station the next day. He said yes, and asked my name, which of course I offered freely and incorrectly. Then we were allowed to go. For two seconds. Then another cop pointed out our rear lights needed fixing. Of course of course we’ll fix it this week. Outta there!

Again, in hindsight, this wasn’t the worst of our road block experiences, but we were not to know that at the time. Certain expressions of relief and outrage were shared as we drove home, and that was that. Although I am sure the cops at Hohola would have been waiting around despondently for ‘Geoff’ to show up the next morning. For hours on end. Maybe they too were outraged. After all they wouldn’t be used to scandalous lies or anything like that, the poor guys.

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